Located a short distance east of the main entrance into the Mausoleum of Emperor Akbar, this small but elegant palace is known as Kanch Mahal. It was completed in 1619 AD by Emperor Jehangir (Akbar's son) as a hunting lodge for the imperial women. Built from red and yellow sandstone, Kanch Mahal is decorated with detailed bas-reliefs and inlaid marble in geometric and floral motifs, while bands of blue and yellow glazed tiles run across the façade. Intricate lattices cover the windows (designed to provide privacy to the women) and a large porch with a pointed arch precedes the doorway into the palace.
Built in 1605 by the great Mughal Emperor as his own mausoleum, Akbar's Tomb is a masterpiece of Mughal-period architecture. Akbar died before the completion of the tomb, but the last of the construction was overseen by his son Emperor Jahangir. It was considered eclectic in design, combining elements of Persian, Islamic, Hindu and Jain architecture, the signature style of the Akbar era, also seen in nearby Fatehpur Sikri. The mausoleum rises at the centre of a vast square garden landscaped in the typical Mughal charbagh layout, which consists of four quadrants separated by water channels and paved paths leading to monumental gates or baradaris (pavilions) in four directions. The façades and interiors of the structures are splendidly decorated in a dazzling combination of inlaid, painted or carved floral motifs, geometric patterns, and Arabic calligraphy (see travelogue). The construction of this mausoleum occurred near the height of Mughal architectural expression, a period which later culminated with the Taj Mahal in Agra. Akbar's tomb is one of those must-see monuments when in Agra, and it is the reason to visit the suburb, Sikandra.
Unlike any mausoleum in the Indian subcontinent, the Central Mausoleum of Akbar's Tomb is in the shape of a tiered pyramid. It is also unique in that it contains no central dome or minarets (aside from those at the South Gate). The first four levels are built in red sandstone, while the top floor is in white marble. Numerous chhatris (domed pavilions) surmount the structure, while open arched verandas and lattice balustrades encircle it. The ground floor serves as a resting platform for the upper floors and contains an arched gallery around the perimeter. The main entrance of the mausoleum is framed by a high iwan arch, decorated in a variety of geometric patterns with inlaid marble and stone. Strong elements of Persian and Hindu architecture blend harmoniously in this wonderful monument.
For more photos of this eclectic design, check out the travelogue: "Akbar's Mausoleum."
This multi-domed structure is a Sikh temple dedicated to Guru Tegh Bahadur. It is also sometimes referred to as Gurudwara ka Taal and is an important pilgrimage site. It was built at the location where the Guru surrendered to the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, in Sikandra, near Agra. Although it appears old, the temple was in fact constructed only in the 1970s. It combines red sandstone bricks with whitewashed façades and domes. Just to the west of the temple is a separate domed structure that is also another Sikh temple. Both are located in Sikandra, along the Agra-Delhi road, a short distance from Akbar's Tomb (closer to Agra).
Beautifully landscaped, the gardens of Akbar's Tomb are kept as they would have been upon completion in 1614. Herds of deer and troops of monkeys roam the lawns, while a variety of birds take stop for a rest, also as they would have in the 17th century. The garden itself follows a charbagh layout, consisting of four quadrants separated by paved paths and water channels that run in north-south and east-west directions. Where they meet at the centre lies the pyramid-like mausoleum of Emperor Akbar.
The interior of the mausoleum of Akbar is one of the most beautifully and elaborately decorated I have seen in India (the Taj Mahal's interior, by comparison, is a bit of a letdown due to the lack of rich ornamentation). The walls and vaulted ceilings of the interior, particularly the entrance hall on the south side, contain very intricate polychrome stucco designs in floral and arabesque motifs, while Koranic verses wrap around the walls, all faintly lit through delicate lattice windows. Persian influence in the design is quite evident. Emperor Akbar's cenotaph, along with the tombs of two of his daughter, lies in a burial chamber at the centre of the building.
A masterpiece and a monument in itself, the South Gate of Akbar's tomb is the most exquisite Mughal gateway ever built. It is the main - and only - entrance into the complex and is thus the grandest and most adorned among the four gate structures (the other three are essentially pavilions (baradaris) providing symmetry in architecture, rather than actual entry points). The structure is rectangular with a central iwan arch, flanked by double-tiered arched niches. It is crowned by four domed chhatri pavilions and four white marble minarets, one at each corner. A unique feature, these white minarets are a contrast to the red sandstone of the gateway and are said to have been a precursor to the similar white minarets of the Taj Mahal in Agra. Like the rest of Akbar's Tomb, the façades of the South Gate are covered in the most stunning decorations, which harmoniously blend Kilim-like and Persian rug-like designs, arabesque geometric patterns, Arabic calligraphy, and floral motifs.
For photos of these dazzling designs, take a look at the travelogue: "South Gate of Akbar's Tomb."
The East Gate is similar to the West Gate both in purpose (i.e. to provide symmetry rather than an entry point) and design, but contains slightly less decorations. The same superb inlaid geometric and floral motifs cover the façade around the iwan arch, but the interior of the iwan is unadorned. It is unclear whether or not it was ever decorated, as the decorations may have faded over time.
The West Gate is more of a pavilion (baradari) to provide symmetry in architecture, rather than an actual gate. It is similar in design to the East Gate, though more richly decorated. Both are dominated by a large central iwan arch, which rises higher than the rest of the structure, but the West Gate differs in the use of two small chhatris to crown the corners of the middle part. Also, unlike the East Gate, the interior of the West Gate iwan is covered in designs, while black and white floral motifs frame the large pointed arch.
This ruined red brick structure is the mausoleum of Mariam Zamani, built by her son the Mughal Emperor Jehangir upon her death in 1623. She was the wife of Emperor Akbar, whose grand mausoleum lies just to the north of her own. Unlike Akbar's tomb, hers is in a rather bad state of preservation with the upper floor of the building significantly damaged, while little or no façade ornamentation remains. The structure consists of a square ground floor surmounted by an octagonal first floor, with pointed arches all around. In the 19th century, the tomb was used as an orphanage by the Christian Missionary Society. Mariam Zamani's mausoleum can be easily seen from the Agra-Delhi road, just south of Akbar's Tomb.
The tomb of Akbar has four gateways facing four different directions, with southern gateway as the main entrance and other three built just for the ornamental purposes. The northern gateway was struck by lightning some years ago and is in ruins now. It was built in red sandstone and was decorated using mosaic and stuccowork, inlaying and painting. The eastern and the western gateways are almost identical in their construction. Both of them are multi-storeyed and have a central iwan (portal) flanked by wings on the sides. These gateways sport two beautiful kiosks on the top and two miniature chhatris on the turrets. They are also adorned with beautiful carvings, stucco, inlay and mosaic work.
These are Langurs, black-faced monkeys that have found a safe haven in the beautiful gardens surrounding the mausoleum. They were so tame and just sitting there with their feet up that you could get within just a few feet of them. I took some photo's of them before an Indian women started giving them chipati's when suddenly all hell broke lose as a mass scramble for food started. The monkeys live here in tandem with deer that roam around grazing on the grass. Nice sight!
Located centrally in the square plan, at the junction of four causeways dividing the garden into four quarters, the main tomb building has five storeys built in the shape of a truncated pyramid. It stands on a high stone platform. The vestibule leading to the Akbar's tomb is decorated with wonderfull floresque, arabesque and calligraphic designs. The chamber itself is simple and paved with stone. The other chambers entomb graves of Aram Banu and Shukru-n-nisa (daughters of Akbar), Zebu-n-nisa (daughter of Aurangzeb) and Sulaiman Shikoh (son of Shah Alam).
The main gatehouse lies at the southern end of the complex and is fairly dramatic as it features 4 tall white marble minarets on the four corners. All of these minarets are built in four tiers that diminish in diameter to the top and are crowned by chhatri. This double-storeyed gateway has a central archway with wings on the side having two arched recesses one over the other. Like all the other gateways, it is also built in red sandstone but has richer ornamentation work on it. Inlay and arabesque work in white marble lend a unique grand look to this gateway. The entrance kiosk counter is just to the left of the gatehouse entrance.
Akbar started building his own mausoleum, near Agra, that was to be a perfect blend of Hindu, Christian, Islamic, Buddhist and Jain designs and motifs, bespeaking of his religious tolerance and secular views. However, he could not complete it and died. Thus, his son Jehangir completed his tomb (between 1605-12), popularly known as Sikandra after Sikandra Lodi, who established the community where Akbar's Tomb is located. The result is this impressive, perfectly symmetrical complex with the tomb located in the centre of a vast walled garden. The main gatehouse is also very impressive and features 4 tall white marble minarets on the four corners. This place is a must visit and I came here as part of a small auto-rickshaw tour as it's some 20km away from Agra. More photo's can be found on one of my travelogues.
Open: Sunrise to sunset. Admission: Rs110 for foreigners.